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Eye On The Enemy; Crystal Palace (H)

By on January 13, 2017 in Interviews, Match Preview

Crystal-Palace-v-Stoke-City

Well, we could sure do with a win right now, couldn’t we?

With everyone having already been laughing at the club, the humiliating FA Cup exit, now with Dimitri Payet-gate in full swing we could really do without a former manager coming back to inflict further pain on us. Oh, what’s that? Big Sam manages Palace now? Marvelous. You get the feeling that these next few games could seal Slaven’s fate either way…so he could really do with his team galvanising and playing as we all know they can.

I spoke to the gents from @TheEaglesBeak – www.theeaglesbeak.com – prior to our game, and asked them a few things about both clubs respective seasons so far. As always, a massive thank you to them for getting involved.

No wins in your last five and a trip to the ‘formidable fortress’ that is the London Stadium. How has your season been received by the fans so far?

Very poorly. After a summer transfer window that promised a big improvement on the poor form last season, we expected to be challenging the top half of the table. Unfortunately, we have struggled to find any sort of form, seemingly winning one or two then losing another four. We go into Saturday’s game currently seventeenth in the table which is a huge disappointment for a squad that should be far away from the relegation places. Of course, we have had more than our fair share of injury problems which haven’t helped but that isn’t the only reason for our plight.

What have you made of our equally as poor season?

It’s been a shock to most people how poorly West Ham have fared this season. There was a lot of negativity surrounding the move to the London Stadium but nobody expected that to influence the playing side, which it has. Home games must feel like an away game having played at Upton Park for so long and that can’t help either. Your form seemed to improve in December but the FA Cup thrashing to Manchester City could have dented some confidence.

Alan Pardew slipped back into his management-cycle which has again seen him sacked in all too familiar circumstances. Big Sam has replaced him. Are you happy with the appointment?

Although most Palace fans wanted Pardew to go, the timing could have been much better. The sacking felt a bit sudden but it turned out to be because the club were just waiting for Allardyce to sign a contract. Big Sam was managing England at the start of the season and, but for an unfortunate role in a corruption scandal, would still be in the biggest job in English football which speaks of his pedigree and experience in the game. We can certainly count ourselves lucky to have him in charge and although the start hasn’t been great, key players are finally returning from injury and Allardyce’s plans are slowly falling into place.

Bilic is finding himself ever more frequently under pressure from a section of fans for our results this season, do you think he’s to blame, and, would you be surprised to see him sacked this season from an outsiders perspective?

Bilic has suffered because of the poor atmosphere at West Ham so I think it would be harsh to sack him but I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised to see him go given the sheer lack of patience in modern football. He worked wonders with a decent squad last season and improved it with some good signings in the summer. It’s fair to say that a few of those signings haven’t lived up to expectations this season but he’s still the man to improve the current predicament. I can’t think of a realistic target who would be an improvement if he was to go, either.

Passes between Puncheon and Benteke have yielded the third most chances created in the League(19), just pipping our own best combo of Payet to Lanzini (17). How important for you are those two in order for you to stay in the League and improve on your form?

Those stats are fairly surprising because Puncheon hasn’t had a great season, perhaps aided due to his taking of set-pieces and Benteke’s aerial threat. Benteke has been good but there is definitely a sense of possible improvement from him. Remy returning from injury will urge him to keep his starting place which could be a benefit for him.

Who has Palace’s best player been this season and why?

Wilfried Zaha by an absolute mile. Too many key players have either had poor seasons or been injured, but Zaha has been consistently good until going away to the Africa Cup of Nations. He has always been heavily criticised for his lack of end product but this is an area that he has really improved since August, scoring four goals and assisting eight. He marked his first two international appearances for Ivory Coast with an assist and a goal which will give him confidence on the international stage, having recently switched allegiance from England.

James Tomkins has enjoyed success (well…) since joining, seeing regular football and scoring three goals. How has he been since making the switch across London?

He’s been one of our better players this season, playing both at centre-back and right-back, but has suffered three different injuries which have halted his progress. His partnership with Dann showed plenty of signs of blossoming but it just hasn’t been given a chance with both missing large parts of the season.

Do you expect the football to suffer under big Sam, and, if so is that a fair price to pay for winning games/staying up?

All Palace fans would take staying up over pretty football right now. As long as we get a few points with the bad football we’ll all be happy.

Considering his form it may not be such a silly question, but, which one West Ham player would you like to have in your XI and why?

Payet. he may not even be a West Ham player for much longer given Bilic’s comments in his press conference but he’s by far your best player. I also wouldn’t mind Winston Reid if you wouldn’t mind giving us another centre-back due to all our injury problems there.

What position do you predict Palace to finish in this year?

Realistically, I’d take seventeenth right now. But we should really be pushing on and aiming for somewhere between twelfth to fifteenth.

What position do you predict West Ham to finish this year?

I expect you to have a better second half to the campaign and finish mid-table.

Both teams are desperate for a win, there’s a returning manager, and, of course, it’s a London derby. What’s your prediction for the game?

I think a draw would be a good result for both sides on paper so maybe 1-1. Think it really depends on who’s fit. Benteke, James Tomkins, Scott Dann and Loic Remy should all return which will give us a lift.

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